Twins end road trip with loss to Jays
Team falls 1 1/2 games behind White Sox in AL Central
TORONTO -- It was a road trip the Twins had been dreading all season.
Their longest such trek in 39 years, the Twins endured 14 games in 15 days, across four different cities, spanning from the American West Coast to the East Coast of Canada due to the Republican National Convention being held in Minnesota.
"They had a long trip," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. "That's tough at the end of the season to do that. I can't imagine packing enough clothes to do that. That's a tough trip."
On Thursday at Rogers Centre, the trip finally concluded as the Twins were hammered, 9-0, by the Jays. With the loss, Minnesota (77-63) was swept by Toronto during the three-game series and finished its trip with a 5-9 record.
If there's one positive the Twins can draw from their trip though, it's that they have not lost much ground in the standings. With their latest defeat, the club fell 1 1/2 games behind the first place White Sox, who were idle on Thursday, in the American League Central.
Amazingly, before its road swing began, Minnesota trailed Chicago by just half a game. The Twins only lost only one game to the White Sox in the AL Central during that span.
"We're going to be fine," said catcher Mike Redmond. "Obviously, it's a long road trip. Everybody knows that. We haven't done well, but at the end of the day ... we lost a game [in the standings] in 15 days. In my mind, that's a pretty good trip, even though we had opportunities to win a lot of games."
The road trip began on a good note in Los Angeles, where the Twins won the first two games of a four-game set against the Angels. After that though, things went downhill in a hurry as the team dropped nine of its past 12 games.
"We got what we deserved on this trip," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose club sits 5 1/2 games back of the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card race. "If you don't execute -- you don't catch the ball, you miss plays and you walk guys -- you end up getting losses.
"We didn't execute enough to win ballgames," he continued. "We had plenty of opportunities in all the games. The desire is there, the fight is there, but you still can't make mistakes.
"You can't keep shooting yourself in the foot."
On Thursday, the Twins were unable to get their bats going at all against Toronto (73-66) starter Jesse Litsch. The right-hander dominated Minnesota's hitters during his complete-game shutout. Only once did he allow a Twins' baserunner to reach second base.
That situation came in the third inning, when shortstop Nick Punto led off with a double. Litsch retired the next two batters before walking Joe Mauer. Cleanup hitter Justin Morneau couldn't make the starter pay though, as he grounded out to first base to end the threat. Morneau's groundout was a common theme for Minnesota on Thursday, as 16 of Litsch's outs were recorded via a ground ball.
"He's all over the zone," said Redmond of Litsch. "He throws strikes and everything is moving. We hit a lot of balls right at guys and unfortunately that's the way it's going to go."
Meanwhile, Twins starter Kevin Slowey managed to keep the game close, allowing three runs over his 5 2/3 innings. However, the Jays broke the game wide open in the eighth inning, when they knocked around relievers Bobby Korecky and Philip Humber -- both of whom are September callups -- for a total of five runs.
Each of Toronto's starting players collected a hit in the game. Rookie Travis Snider hit his first Major League home run and went 3-for-3 with two RBIs for the Jays, while center fielder Vernon Wells also notched a home run and two RBIs.
With only 22 games left in the season, Minnesota's race for a playoff spot is heating up very quickly. The club will now turn their attention to a six-game homestand, which begins with Friday's game against the Tigers. The Twins have played their best baseball at the Metrodome, boasting a 46-23 record.
"We've got to get home and see if we can right the ship," said Gardenhire. "We've played well at home and we need to play well at home. We need to get back on the winning side and get a better feeling amongst ourselves.
"We've done pretty good at home. That's our guiding light. That we can go home and play good baseball."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.